Without Soria and Nathan, The Detroit Tigers Will Not Win It All

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In 2014, the Detroit Tigers signed Joe Nathan, and traded for Joakim Soria, because they wanted reliability and consistency. Simply put, what they received instead was a rude awakening. With fans in Detroit clamoring for a better bullpen, and by association, an elusive championship ring, both pitchers failed to meet expectations. In 2015, Soria and Nathan will need to return to form, or the Tigers, and their fan-base, will face heartbreak yet again.

In essence, it is not Miguel Cabrera, or Max Scherzer, but Joe Nathan, and Joakim Soria, who are the most important Tigers on the roster. It may seem like a frightening thought, but it is not nearly as terrifying as another year where a David Ortiz home-run, or a Delmon Young double, dooms the Tigers’ lofty hopes. And, while it is worrisome for the Tigers’ faithful to have to place their trust in any reliever, there is reason to be optimistic.

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Despite his standing in the court of public opinion, Nathan righted the ship after posting a bewildering 9.00 ERA in the month of June. Now, he still failed to live up to what he had shown the Detroit faithful as he developed into a proven Tigers killer in years past, but by the end of 2014 he had started to figure it out. In the last three months of the season, he posted ERA totals of 3.00 (July), 3.48 (August), and 3.00 (September), once more.

Nathan failed to be what Tigers fans had been promised, but he is their closer, and will remain their closer, because he has been one of the best in the game, for a very long time.

Soria, meanwhile, managed to be more disappointing than Nathan. In return for trading two high-end prospects (Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel), Dave Dombrowski received a -0.1 WAR and a 4.91 ERA from the Tigers’ former divisional foe. But, Soria too, has been an efficient, reliable reliever and it is hard to believe his performance in 2014 is something the Tigers should come to expect in his second year at Comerica Park.

The reason for this is simple. Before coming to Detroit, both pitchers had been phenomenal in a Rangers uniform. Nathan posted a sparkling 1.39 ERA, and 43 saves in 2013, while Soria boasted a similarly impressive 2.70 ERA, and 17 saves in the first half of 2014.

Dombrowski, and the loyal Detroit fan-base, watched a team they bested, in the Kansas City Royals, reach the World Series behind the strength of a bullpen they had always wished for in Motown. If things are going to be different this year, the Tigers’ two veteran relievers will need to anchor this unsteady bullpen, and return to form, or Detroit will watch their championship window close right in front of them.

Next: ICYMI: MCB Digest-Detroit Tigers Week that Was

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